Queensland police union calls for crime commission to be stripped of ‘dangerous’ powers

Ben SmeeFri, 26 March 2021, 5:07 am

<img src="https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/ZBA3RwkBEGddMWeGYUnefg–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/https://s.yimg.com/uu/api/res/1.2/oLeGOafIS9a0CHtE1u3QUw–~B/aD02MDA7dz0xMDAwO2FwcGlkPXl0YWNoeW9u/https://media.zenfs.com/en/theguardian_763/4bc3ab843e6447a01a9184e39334a910&quot; alt="<span>Photograph: Dave Hunt/AAP
Photograph: Dave Hunt/AAP

The Queensland police union has called for the state’s Crime and Corruption Commission to be stripped of its responsibilities for investigating major and organised crime, claiming the current situation has become “dangerous”.

The union’s president, Ian Leavers, told a parliamentary review into the CCC’s operations he had concerns the current structure of the corruption watchdog was problematic.

The organisation is tasked with investigating both major crime and corruption. It also undertakes “star chamber” coercive hearings where witnesses are compelled to give evidence.

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Civil libertarians have previously raised concerns about the extent to which the CCC has become “a super police force” and that this role has overshadowed its function as a corruption watchdog.

Leavers said the CCC – which is the successor agency of bodies established after the landmark Fitzgerald corruption inquiry – was using police officers to perform police functions, including intelligence gathering and witness protection.

“It is somewhat hypocritical,” he said. “The Fitzgerald inquiry identified the most at risk of corruption were those in specialist areas with extended powers.

“We now have a situation where the very body charged with keeping Queensland corruption free also are responsible for investigating high-level criminal activity such as [outlaw motorcycle gangs], terrorism [and] paedophilia, with exceptional and compulsive powers.

“This seems to be a dangerous path to follow. It would make more sense to limiting the CCC to an anti-corruption role.

“I fully support the existence of a powerful anti-corruption body and believe Queensland is a better place for it.”

The state parliament’s oversight committee for the CCC is holding a five-yearly review of its operations. Senior police officers earlier told the inquiry they support the existing arrangement between the QPS and the CCC.

In a submission to the inquiry, the Queensland Law Society argued the CCC should have an additional oversight and complaints mechanism.

The QLS said some of the CCC’s powers – particularly the power to compel people to give evidence in star chamber hearings – “abrogate cornerstone principles of our legal system”.

“Infringement upon cornerstone principles should only be contemplated in a case where a clear justification exists and as a last resort,” the law society said.

“In our submission, these powers have not been appropriately justified. We urge the committee to review the CCC’s powers, and instances of their use, in order to uphold the operation of these fundamental legal principles upon which the proper and efficient administration of justice has been based.”

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